Monday, May 07, 2012

The Physics Of Spilled Coffee

As someone mentioned at the end of this article, this work is destined for the Ig Nobel prize.

If you wish to know more about how and why coffee often gets spilled when being transported in a mug, this might be of interest to you. It was even published in PRE.

A fluid's back-and-forth movement has a certain natural frequency, and this is determined by the size of its container. In their paper published last week in Physical Review E, Krechetnikov and Mayer show that everyday mug sizes produce natural frequencies that just happen to match those of a person's leg movements during walking. This means that walking alone, without any other interference, is tuned to drive coffee to oscillate in a mug. But the researchers also found that even small irregularities in a person's walking are important: These amplify the wilder oscillations, or sloshing, which bumps up the chance of a spillage. 
 So go for either very small mugs, or very big ones (I vote for big). :)


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